Since the death of her husband, Mrs Waters has not considered the possibility of remarrying. The constant proposals from Harry Benn are putting her off even more. Even if she were interested, he is far too old for her, and he drinks too much. She should know, she serves him every night at The Beehive. No, she is quite content being the landlady, and keeping the inn in good order takes up enough of her time.
When she is surprised in the night by a handsome stranger trespassing in her house, she has half a mind to shoot him. He insists it is not necessary, he is only pretending to be a burglar for a strange plan concocted by Benn, in which Benn would come to Mrs Waters aid when she screams out. Seizing the opportunity to pay Benn back for this, and his constant whining at her, they stage the scene to make it look like she has been surprised by Travers and accidentally shot him and killed him. Their plot is successful, and with some quick thinking they even manage to convince Benn, and a Policeman, that he imagined it all.
Through the laughter, Mrs Waters and Travers form a bond of friendship, and he leaves her after breakfast with the possibility of something more.
Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate is a delightful romcom that was popular from its first performance. Over a century later its score, plot, and strong feminist themes still engage audiences with just as much vibrancy.